Indian scientist designs method to reduce radioactive waste

Last Updated: Saturday, November 28, 2009 - 15:32

London: Nuclear power could meet all our energy needs but leaves dangerous radioactive waste. Now, a team led by an Indian scientist has developed a new method to reduce the amount of this waste considerably.
The disposal of the old core rods and also reactor operation results in a large amount of low-level waste, especially contaminated cooling water.

S. Narasimhan from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Kalpakkam, India working with P.D. B? Sellergren, a chemist from the Institute of Environmental Research Technische Universit? Dortmund in Germany, developed the method.

His approach: small beads consisting of a special polymer which `fishes` the radioactivity out of the water.

Usually radioactive water is cleaned with ion exchangers. But this technique has a crucial disadvantage, because it doesn`t differentiate between non-radioactive iron-ions and radioactive cobalt-ions.

Sellergren and Narasimhan were looking for a material which binds cobalt and not iron. They developed a special polymer which is made through a procedure called "molecular imprinting".

This polymer is made in an environment containing cobalt. Then the cobalt-ions are extracted with hydrochloric acid, meaning that they are virtually "washed out".

The resulting cobalt-sized holes -- the imprinting -- are able to trap cobalt, and just cobalt, in other environments. The result: a small amount of this polymer can mop up a large amount of radioactive isotopes.

The team is now forming the polymer into small beads that can pass through the cooling system of a nuclear-power station, says a release of the Institute of Environmental Research.

They expect that it would be more economical and environment-friendly to concentrate radioactivity into such beads than to dispose off large amounts of low-level waste.

There obviously is a demand. Some 40 new nuclear-power stations are being built around the world. And the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates that a further 70 will be built in the next 15 years.


Download the all new Zee News app for Android and iOS to stay up to date with latest headlines and news stories in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, Business and much more from India and around the world.

First Published: Saturday, November 28, 2009 - 15:32

More from zeenews

comments powered by Disqus